The Swedish Air Force has declared war on a new, homegrown enemy: forest fires. Sweden dispatched two Gripen fighters to bomb forest fires, snuffing out flames with blast waves. As weird as it sounds, it actually works, and you’ve probably done something like it yourself. Scientists describe the effect is described as similar to blowing out candles on a birthday cake.
According to The Local-Sweden, a forest fire has been burning in central Sweden for nearly two weeks. The wildfire, burning near Älvdalen, is in a difficult area for firefighters to reach. Even worse, the forest fire is located in an old firing range littered with unexploded military ordnance, making it hazardous even if fire crews could reach the area.
The Swedish Air Force launched a flight of Gripen fighter bombers loaded with GBU-49 laser-guided bombs. The Gripens dropped one bomb at an altitude of 9,800 feet. The bomb exploded on target, extinguishing flames up to 100 yards from the impact point. Here’s a video of the bombing
How does it work? A sudden change of pressure will blow the flames of a fire off its fuel source, in this case burning trees, brush, and undergrowth. The same thing happens when you blow out the candles on a birthday cake, separating the flames of the candle from the wick. Engineers use the same principle, utilizing explosive charges, to extinguish fires at oil wells.
The Swedish Air Force used one of the latest and greatest precision-guided bombs for the mission. Unlike previous precision air-delivered bombs, the 500 pound GBU-49 has a dual seeker setup employing both GPS and laser guidance. Normally the pilot plugs in a set of GPS coordinates to target objects on the ground, but if the enemy is jamming the satellite-based guidance system the pilot can switch to unjammable laser guidance instead.
This is not the only example of man bombing nature. In 1935, General George S. Patton bombed Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano to stop a lava eruption. (Spoiler: it probably didn’t work.) In 2016, the Russian Aerospace Force dispatched Su-34 strike jets to bomb river ice and get the river flowing again. China has also used H-6 bombers to dislodge river ice.
Source: The Local-Sweden